본문 바로가기
  • Home

A Proposal for a New Direction for the Study of Old Testament Rhetorical Criticism

Jinkyu Kim 1

1백석대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Muilenburg pioneered a rhetorical study of the Old Testament in the second half of the twentieth century. The rhetorical criticism of the Old Testament has since been advanced by the studies of the Muilenburg School, the classical rhetorics, and the new rhetoric. Because of the limitations in these disciplines, however, we need to come up with a breakthrough in the study of the OT rhetorical criticism to overcome its shortcomings. The goal of this study, while adopting the contributions of the rhetorical studies of the Old Testament up to the present, is to propose a new direction for the rhetorical study which reflects the dominant rhetorical characteristics of the Old Testament itself. Muilenburg and the Muilenburg School have contributed to the rhetorical studies of the Old Testament by giving us the insights into the close reading strategies of the Bible, and thereby we are able to know how to set the limit of the text, how to analyze its structure, and how to study its stylistic features. Their observations on literary devices including imageries and the diverse types of parallelisms have contributed to our goal of this study. However, their contributions focus on the stylistic aspects and miss the classical definition of rhetorics as the art of persuasion. Additionally, their biased interpretation, centered on the author or the text itself for the understanding of the meaning, doesn’t allow for a holistic understanding. Aristotle, who significantly contributed to the development of the classical rhetorics, gives us a few great insights into our rhetorical studies of the Old Testament. His observations include diverse studies on the effects of the literary devices such as imageries and parallelisms. He also provides some insights into the ‘plot’ which can be used in the analysis of the OT narratives. Kennedy and Gitay have adopted the strengths of the classical rhetorics in the study of the OT rhetorical criticism. By their efforts the OT rhetorical criticism comes to accommodate the art of persuasion which is the generic concept of the rhetorics. The idea of the ‘rhetorical situation’ proposed by Bitzer has enlivened the study of the socio-historical background of the text which was put aside by the Muilenburg School. However, the approaches adopted by Kennedy and Gitay were not able to overcome the limitations of the classical concept of the three genres which had been inherited from the classical rhetorics. The new rhetoric initiated by Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca has changed the focus of the rhetoric(s) from the orator/the author to the audience/the reader. They regard the rhetoric(s) as the technique of argumentation. The audience-based perspective is critical, because argumentation needs to be supported by the audience. Going beyond the idea of persuasion, Burke focuses on the orator’s personal and social identification and transformation. Hence the audience turns out to be the critic and the judge. With the appearance of Booth’s work, the rhetoric is interested in its effects, and thereby it has progressed as a practical discipline. Since then, many diverse and conflicting theories have appeared in the studies of rhetorics and brought about the loss of direction in the studies of the OT rhetorical criticism. The last part of this paper suggests a new direction for the study of the OT rhetorical criticism which, while adopting the contributions of the studies of the rhetorical criticism up to the present, reflects the unique literary characteristics of the Hebrew Bible. Fox has already argued that there are peculiar rhetorical characteristics of the Hebrew Bible in itself. The writer’s two suggestions are as follows. First, the analysis of the narrative, especially the plot, should be the primary study of the OT rhetorical criticism, since the narrative occupies about 1/3 of the Old Testament. It is due to the limitations of the three classical genres the classical rhetorics has inherited to us in that they cannot explain the persuasive power of the narrative plot in the Hebrew Bible. Second, the poetic literary devices such as imagery, parallelism, and ellipsis should be another main focus of the study of the OT rhetorical criticism, because the OT poetry and prophets are mainly composed in a poetic style. The rhetorical studies of these literary devices will contribute to our understanding of the dynamics of persuasion and transformation between the author and the reader.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.